About Legislative Auditing
In Canada, as in other parliamentary systems, control of the public purse is carried out on behalf of the people by their elected representatives, the members of legislative assemblies. While it is up to governments to draft budgets and spending estimates, they may neither collect nor spend taxpayers’ money without the express approval of legislative assemblies. After governments spend the money entrusted to them, they are obligated to report back to the assemblies on how they used the money. This obligation to answer for actions taken forms the basis of an accountability for results relationship between governments and their legislative assemblies.

The government provides the assembly with information about the use of the public funds entrusted to it. The assembly needs assurance that this information is appropriate, credible and complete, and that it accurately reflects the results of the activities of government. The way in which it obtains such assurance is through an independent audit function set up to assist it in fulfilling its oversight role. The audit function is therefore a critical link in the chain of public accountability for results and a vital part in the democratic process of responsible government.(1)

In most Canadian jurisdictions the reports of the legislative auditor are referred for review to a public accounts committee, which is made up of elected members of the legislature. The public accounts committee is a significant part of the financial accountability cycle of government. The committee is concerned with value for money in the administration of government policy rather than with policy itself, and it assists the legislature in holding the government to account for spending taxpayers’ money and for stewardship over public funds. It helps to make sure the government accounts for its operating policies and actions and for its management and use of public funds.(2)

(1) Legislative Audit: Serving the Public Interest, Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors (CCOLA) Study Group on Defining the Profession of Legislative Auditing, 2000.

(2) A Guide to Strengthening Public Accounts Committees, CCAF-FCVI and CCPAC, 2010.